Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mashup - Web 2.0 with Enterprise (Part 4)

Web 2.0 is not a buzz anymore, has been widely adopted and results have been too encouraging in the consumer world to discard it as just another fad!! Business is also slowly adopting web 2.0 in both their internal and external applications. If you see, technology has taken time to mature always before it gets widely adopted. We have seen it with SOA and SaaS, it was seen as next generation application architecture by modern day architecture gurus. But it has taken time to mature and embraced by large majority of business and makes effective use of it. There have been some rumors of web 2.0 bust and also of next generation web 3.0. I do not want to comment on it yet because I think it is too early to reject web 2.0 and its potential has not yet been realized. I have seen in last six months that there has been shift in business serious dwelling in web 2.0 ideas and trying to leverage network effect of web 2.0 in their business model.

I have come up with a summary table of what web 2.0 applications are and how they can be used in the internal and external applications. Please feel free to comment.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mashup - Web 2.0 with Enterprise (Part 3)

In the previous post, we looked the web 2.0 applications that can be deployed with the enterprise for their employees. It is a misnomer that web 2.0 applications can either be consumer applications or internal applications within the enterprise. Companies are now taking advantage of the powerful web 2.0 concepts in streamlining their business models and processes. They are realizing that web 2.0 applications can be used effectively to engage, interact and support the customers, partners and suppliers to gain an edge in their business. Companies are looking for innovative ways beyond software creation and are engaging large communities of people on the web to participate in their business that was not possible before. This may require them to change their business models, though not necessarily in a disruptive fashion, and may impact their short and long term objectives and businesses. The web 2.0 applications have already shown results for some of businesses who have taken risk and plunge into the web 2.0 hype.

Everyone would ask the same question when it comes to adopting a new technology or a new paradigm. How would my business benefit from it? And the answer would be "it will help in increasing your revenue and reducing costs". No marks for right answer please. Aren't these the only two drivers for running any business? The question is "how can web 2.0 enable it - increase revenue and reduce costs". Research companies have done numerous surveys that have given them some insight into what C-level executives think of web 2.0 and how web 2.0 can help them achieve their business goals. Some of reasons for adopting web 2.0 in their business are acquiring new customers, customer service and support, product and service innovations, customer retention, online sales, and marketing, advertising and public relations. Most of the senior executives have been struggling to answer as to how and how much time it would take to see the results. Everybody's business is unique and it will take a thorough discovery cycles to identify what processes can be enabled using web 2.0 principles and what benefit they would reap.

Let's now look at some of the web 2.0 applications that can be used within the enterprise for external audiences, including customers, partners and suppliers. We will also see how they will benefit their business in providing them with engaging, lively and interactive alternative.

Businesses in general have been collaborating and communicating with the customers, partners and supplier. They have been doing this either through offline modes of collaborations like mails, phones, faxes or online mode using simple web applications to complex large portals. The offline modes of collaboration may be more personal but at the same time more expensive. As people are becoming more web savvy, they want all interaction to happen either through web or smart phones. Companies spend a fortune in this mode of communication. The legacy online collaboration used to happen through unidirectional web i.e. business would typically provide the content or data for the customer and supplier to view. But if they had a specific request for a service, they needed to revert back to offline collaboration i.e. pick up a phone or send an email. With the advent of web 2.0, the paradigm has shifted to read-write, user driven intelligent web. The customers and partners are more than willing to collaborate over the web. In addition, they can access the content on their PCs and smart phone and that too when they want it. Wiki is best tool for collaboration now. It provides all the rich features and functionality that is required for collaboration and communication including content creation, feedback, calendar, forums, project management etc.

Another usage of wikis are in creation of company-pedias. Companies can create wikipedia like company-pedias to distribute their products and services information and also enable customers, partners, and general audience to participate. This will enable to consolidate products and services information, success stories, case studies and white papers and create a knowledge repository.

Blogging is a tool for initiating a dialogs with rest of the web and get feedback from interested audience. The conversation is started typically by individual contributor and enables others to participate in it. Lately blogs have been extended to project teams where team members can write posts on the same blog about their works. Businesses have realized that this could be another effective tool for initiating conversation with the untapped large audiences on the web. It is not just limited to the untapped audiences but can also be used effectively with the existing customers and partners. Whether they are doing this still remains a questions? Yes, there is potential in using blogs as next generation tools in engaging and interacting with last user community on the web. In my opinion, most businesses should be active in exploring business blogs to communicate and collaborate with the customers, partners and untapped web community.

Web 2.0 is synonymous with social networks. Social network applications enable individuals to establish and maintain relationship on the web. The actions and functions of social network depend on the application and its objectives. It is also targeted toward specific audiences. MySpace, Facebook and Linkedin are the most popular social networking applications and are targeted toward different type of audiences. How different are these web 2.0 social networking applications from web 1.0 groups? They probably solve the same purpose but social network applications are much richer in functionality, are extensible and provide more engaging user experience. If you look at FaceBook, it provides extensibility by add-on applications which groups have failed to provide. The social networking applications can be used effectively in businesses in creation of online customer and partner communities. Such communities will be a great forum for exchanging information, ideas, reviews, feedback, recommendations, sales opportunities and support.

There are other applications like mashups, podcast, directory services, and RSS which businesses can leverage to enhance collaboration, communication, and content distribution. Besides companies are also adopting consumer targeted social networking applications like Linkedin, FaceBook in their businesses for creating business communities.